Tiffany and Rebekah from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, are hosting this blogathon to celebrate the life and career of the actor Claude Rains. Be sure to visit their site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself.
When I saw that Tiffany and Rebekah were celebrating Claude, I just knew that I had to take part. Claude is my favourite actor. He was a master of his craft and he is always a real treat to watch and listen.
Claude was a chameleon actor who could switch effortlessly between playing villains who you love to hate, to playing loveable and decent men who you adore and pity.
Claude had the ability to be able to steal a scene in a film, often by doing nothing more than merely sitting in a corner of a room watching others, while saying and doing nothing himself.
His performance is all in the eyes and in the little expressions. I also love how a single arch of his eyebrow conveys amusement, disdain and annoyance. Aspiring actors could learn a thing or two about acting by studying his performances in my opinion.
His performances are subtle, and yet he often ends up delivering the most powerful and memorable performance in whatever film he is appearing in. I have never seen Claude deliver a screen performance which was disappointing or bad. As well as liking him because he was a excellent actor, I must also admit to having a huge crush on Claude Rains. He is so sexy, so funny, so full of charm and wit. The song I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred could well have been written for our Claude. 😉 Whenever a character of his is treated badly by a leading lady, I always get so angry on his behalf, whilst also shaking my head and saying “wake up now, girl. Are you seriously treating Claude bad?!”
Claude is also someone who I admire a great deal. Claude came from nothing and went on to really make something of himself. He also suffered in World War One, but he didn’t let his injury stop him from pursuing his career.
Claude Rains was born in Camberwell, London on November 10th, 1889. His story is truly an inspirational one. He grew up in the poverty riddled slums of London. His father was a stage actor, and Claude wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Claude overcame a speech impediment which had always caused him to stutter. He also took elocution lessons to try and shed his heavy Cockney accent.
The famous Claude Rains voice is both silken and seductive, while also being strong and commanding too. That distinctive voice of his became one of his greatest assets as an actor.
Claude served in the London Scottish Regiment during World War One. A few other classic actors who served in this regiment include Herbert Marshall(who lost a leg during the war), Ronald Colman, and the great Basil Rathbone.
During the First World War, Claude Rains rose from the rank of Private to become a Captain. He was injured in a gas attack, which caused almost complete sight loss in his right eye, the attack also paralyzed his vocal cords for a time.It was the damage to his vocal cords which resulted in that distinctive voice we all know and love. After the war had ended, Claude returned home to London and embarked upon his acting career. He primarily worked on the stage and he was also an acting teacher at RADA, where one of his acting students was a young Sir John Gielgud.
Claude appeared in a British Silent film called Build Thy House(1920), but his big break in films really came when he was cast in James Whale’s horror classic, The Invisible Man in 1933. His performance in this film brought him the fame that he so deserved.
Claude as The Invisible Man. Screenshots by me.
We never see his face until the final minutes of The Invisible Man, but he carries the entire film through his remarkable vocal performance and body language alone. His vocal performance here is outstanding – he perfectly conveys the intellect, the rage, and also the increasing insanity of this character to us, and you forget that you’re not seeing the man behind the bandages.
He signed a contract with Warner Brothers Studios and went on to become one of the greatest actors of his day. Over the next thirty years, Claude Rains would go on to appear in some of the greatest films ever made – The Adventures Of Robin Hood(1938), Mr. Smith Goes To Washington(1939), Casablanca(1942), Now, Voyager(1942), Deception(1946), Notorious(1946), Lawrence Of Arabia(1962) and my personal favourite film of his, The Passionate Friends(1949). He was held in high esteem by colleagues. His friend, and frequent leading lady, Bette Davis adored him. Bette considered him to be her favourite co-star.
I thought that the best way to celebrate Claude was to share some of my favourite films and performances of his. First up are a couple of my favourite performances.
The Passionate Friends(1949)
This film features my favourite performance from Claude. He is outstanding as the decent husband who discovers his much younger wife (Ann Todd) is having an affair. He conveys so well the distress and pain his character feels when he discovers the affair. He has our sympathies throughout.
I especially love the scene where he finally cracks and verbally unleashes his pent up grief and rage at what has happened. I also love the hilarious scene where he subtly lets on to his wife that he knows she is having an affair.
Claude steals every single scene he appears in here. For me he is the heart and highlight of the film. He is hilarious as the scheming Captain Renault.
His character may well do some unpleasant things, but we can’t help but love the guy. Claude’s reactions and expressions in this are hilarious. I love his shared scenes with Bogie and how Renault can always figure him out.
I recommend watching Claude in the following films – Deception, The Passionate Friends, Mr. Skeffington, Angel On My Shoulder(hilarious as the Devil), Casablanca, The Clairvoyant, Mr.Smith Goes To Washington, The Invisible Man, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Now,Voyager. Those films are just a few of his finest performances, but I would recommend that you check out all of his screen work, he never gave a bad or dull performance.
Claude Rains was truly one of the all time greats. Are you a fan of Claude Rains? Share your thoughts below.